Are you the right person to own a dog?

Responsible Dog Ownership

With the number of dogs abandoned in the UK on the increase, Wagging Tails' Hilary Coates questions whether more people should ask themselves 'am I the right person to own a dog?' before making the decision to get a dog.

After seeing the very sad post on our main Facebook page about the number of dogs abandoned after Christmas actually being on the increase (shared from Dogs Trust), I started to wonder why this frustrating practice is still a problem.

There are many articles entitled ‘Which is the right dog for you’, but maybe there should be more entitled ‘Are you the right person to own a dog’?

Why do some people still seem to think that a dog is something to ‘try out’ and the discard once they realise the responsibility?

It’s actually not a difficult task to list all the pros and cons of getting a dog, but you have to know yourself well enough to decide whether there are enough pros to cons for you and not to be pressured by anyone else.

I went through this process before Bandit came into our lives and I hope that by sharing some of the thought processes I went through, it will help at least one person to properly evaluate their suitability as a dog owner and not to rush out and buy the first puppy they set eyes on.

First of all, I realised that no matter how much my two children, aged 9 and 12 at the time, promised they would help out, I was going to be the main trainer, walker, companion and poop scooper to our dog! Was I ready for twice daily walks, giving the time to train a dog and becoming the main focus in the family for that dog?

Secondly, for us it would be an end to spontaneity in terms of days out (no local family or friends we could ask to care for a dog for a long day or weekend); limiting the trips to see family (the garden was not dog friendly) and having to think about a place for the dog when we went away on holiday.

Third was the cost – not only buying a puppy from a reputable breeder, but all the paraphernalia that comes with a dog; vet fees and regular treatments like vaccinations, worming and anti-flea; kennel fees and then the food bill!

For the first set of questions, I knew that I would be capable of dealing with the responsibility, but would undoubtedly have ‘off days’ where I might regret the choice – actually I can only remember one day when Bandit was about 4 months old when I thought ‘what have I got myself into, there’s another 14 years or so of this’, the rest of the time I have been at peace with my choice and all that comes with it, the good times far outweigh the bad. Having the wonderful Lydiard Park on my doorstep gave me the perfect place to walk Bandit every morning, learning exactly where he likes to disappear to!

For the second load of questions, I made sure that the children fully understood that there wouldn’t be any more waking up and saying ‘let’s go to the Wildlife Park today’. As we had been very lucky to live in a few different countries and been to visit a lot of such places, they decided they would be happy to sacrifice and experience the joys of owning a dog. The family visits would now switch from us doing the visiting to the opposite…….the lure of a puppy would be irresistible for the nephews! I was also lucky enough to have a kennels with a great reputation in the next village (the subsequent change of ownership of that kennel lead me to set up Wagging Tails SN, but that’s another story and at first it was a place Bandit enjoyed going to stay).

As for the cost, I researched lots – breeders and cost of puppies; training classes and costs; costs of crates & dog beds; vet fees; an insurance plan; food and kennel charges.

After all that, I knew that the dream of owning a dog could become a reality…which is when the real fun began, looking for our ideal dog!

Further research into breeds and their characteristics led us to a Beagle, being fully aware that they are stubborn, strong-willed, food orientated and difficult to train, as well as being good with children, having few known health issues and being real characters. I have made mistakes along the way, I think that’s natural, but it’s been a journey of great joy and I don’t regret it…..Bandit seems happy enough with life too!

So please, anyone thinking of getting a dog, do the right thing by that dog, ask yourself some difficult questions and give honest answers – it’s the only way to be truly happy as a dog owner.

Hilary Coates and Bandit own and run the Wagging Tails Swindon franchise offering owners throughout the SN postcode area a home based alternative to kennels.

hilary bandit polaroid


Go here to find out more about her Swindon dog boarding service.